Bee balm, also called monarda, is a flowering herb with a long history as a medicinal and herbal tea plant. American colonists used it to make tea, and Native Americans used it to treat colds and sore throats. It has a pleasing scent that is used to make potpourri and sachets. The flowers are edible and sometimes added to summer salads.
Choose a spot to grow bee balm that is in full sun to part shade. The soil should be moist and rich, and if possible, in the lower neutral range of the pH scale, approximately 6.5.
Prepare the planting site. Spread a one-inch layer of compost on the surface of the soil. Turn over the soil using a garden spade and dig to the depth of the spade. Rake the surface of the soil smooth when finished digging.
Sow seeds by scattering or broadcasting them on the surface of the soil. Cover the seeds with a 1/8- to 1/4-inch layer of vermiculite. Firm the surface of the soil gently with your hand.
Water the seedbed with a fine mist using a hose-end sprayer. Monitor the seedbed daily and mist as needed to keep the seedbed moist until the bee balm seeds germinate in about seven to 14 days. Thereafter, water with the equivalent of one inch of rainfall per week.
Thin the seedlings when they are two to three inches high so that they stand eight to 12 inches apart.
Mulch the seedbed with a two-inch layer of buckwheat hulls or shredded bark.
Fertilize the bee balm by putting down a ½- to one-inch layer of compost in the spring. Pull back the mulch and spread compost around the base of the plant. Replace the mulch.
Cut the dried foliage down in late fall after it is killed by frost and apply a protective winter mulch of hay or straw eight to 12 inches deep.